A tax on residual waste in the Netherlands could increase the country’s import of refuse-derived fuel (RDF), a leading Dutch energy-from-waste company has said.
A levy of €13(£10)/tonne levy came into force in January but it applies only to waste generated within the country. Landfill was already taxed at €13/tonne.
A spokesperson for AEB Amsterdam, one of the largest Dutch EfW firms, told MRW the measure was likely to lead to more RDF being imported. The Netherlands took over half of the RDF material exported by the UK in the first quarter of 2014.
“The expectation is that the new tax on combustible waste will result in more recycling of plastic, paper and biomass,” the spokeswoman said. “Less combustible waste will be the outcome and that will probably result in more [imported material] which is excluded from the tax.”
Andy Hill, head of alternative fuel at Sita UK, one of the main RDF exporters, said: “The average recycling rate in the Netherlands is already very good, so it is unlikely that a new tax regime will have a significant positive impact on recycling rates.
“However, any additional capacity created as a result can, and will likely, be filled by RDF exported from the UK.”
The RDF exemption follows negotiations between the Dutch government and the country’s Waste Management Association (WMA), according to Dick Hoogendoorn, the organisation’s managing director.
“We argued that if the government wanted to introduce a tax on combustible waste, this should not cause disadvantage to the competitiveness of the Dutch EfW plants,” he said. “There is a general agreement [between industry and government] that we should not tax [waste] imports.”
A spokesperson for the ministry of finance confirmed to MRW there were no plans to extend the tax to waste imports as the main aim was to increase recycling by Dutch residents and businesses. From July, RDF produced in the Netherlands and exported will also be taxed at €13/tonne.
The new tax is paid by EfW operators, but the increased disposal costs are passed on to municipalities and in turn to residents, who will pay more for waste management services, according to Natasha Spanbroek, policy advisor at Dutch waste management company Rova.
She said the tax could help to increase recycling because EfW would become more expensive relative to segregation and reprocessing.
In its latest interim results, waste management company Shanks said it expected the levy to have a positive impact on the price of secondary materials in the Netherlands.
“[The tax] is expected to help to stabilise, and ultimately increase, pricing for recycling in the Netherlands,” the company said.
Import volumes of RDF have soared to 1.6 million tonnes in 2013 from 400,000 in 2011, which Hoogendoorn attributes to a decline in the volume of domestic residual waste.